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An acronym for "redundant array of inexpensive disks". Sometimes the word "independent" is substituted for "inexpensive," but RAID purists are cheap.

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RAID is the buzzword, RAID array is the item. A RAID array is a set of two, or three, or four or more disk drives that are used to beef up your ability to keep your data safe, through spreading data out across the array of drives, not relying on one drive alone, writing the data in more than one location and any manner of variations on that theme.

Professional data managers are so concerned about the safety of data that a whole meme has been spawned around RAID, with different levels (much like the DEFCON levels, actually) meaning different levels of protection.

These are the most common RAID levels:

Level 0 -- Data Striping - using multiple drives to write the data. Not very safe at all.

Level 1 -- Mirroring - writing the same data on more than one drive at the same time. Not bad, but not great.

Level 4 -- Striping with Parity: Now we're getting serious. Two or more data drives, and a special parity drive that can rebuild any one of the data drives from the other data drives should that one fail.

Level 5 -- Block Interleaved Distributed Parity: Here, you stripe both the data on more than one drive, and the parity information on more than one drive. This is pretty good, and where most IT departments end up with their RAID implementations.

There are other levels, but these are the most common. There are also special controllers required to put RAID to use - hardware controllers are more expensive than software controllers, but they are also a lot faster. You're not going to find RAID arrays at your local COMPUSA or Best Buy, but they're not hard to find.

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